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7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It

7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It

For most of us, the experience of studying for an exam can be captured in one word: panic. You’ve got 18 hours, exhausted, and sitting there staring at an equations sheet full of gibberish. Whyyy? Why didn’t I start earlier?

Believe it or not, there are forces acting against you, pulling you away from starting early enough so that you can comfortably learn new material. Here are 7 of the most insidious reasons why you don’t start early, and what you can do about it.

1. You’re anticipating hard work

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    Procrastination is generally viewed as this guilt-ridden character defect shared almost universally by all students. The problem is, this is exactly what we should expect to happen from an evolutionary perspective.

    Humans are known to be cognitive misers: we conserve mental resources whenever possible, especially when facing tasks not viewed as “essential to our survival.”

    In other words, we put off studying until the last minute because (1) we know the work is hard and will require a lot of mental energy, and (2) until there’s the threat of actually failing the exam (and therefore potentially being humiliated publicly) we’re not in enough emotional pain to motivate us to start studying.

    Additionally, when your brain anticipates multiple outcomes that are all viewed as “painful” (the pain of studying vs. the pain of failing out of college) you become immobilized, unable to choose the lesser of two evils, and push off the work even further.

    Schedule in time for yourself first and then fill in the gaps with study time.

    As Niel Fiore discusses in bestselling classic, The Now Habit, part of the reason you procrastinate is because you see no end in site.

    Think of the difference between a 100 yard dash and a marathon. In the first case you’re able to give maximum effort because you can see the finish line and know it will be over soon. The marathon runner is not so lucky. They know there’s a long road ahead filled with pain and exhaustion, and subconsciously conserve their effort to ensure they can make it through all 26.2 miles.

    This is all to say, if you know you get to go hang out in your buddy’s dorm room and goof off for an hour after you study, you’re much more likely to want to invest that energy.

    As a side benefit, you end up taking advantage of Parkinson’s Law. Because your work expands to fill the time allotted, by scheduling less time for studying, you actually become more productive and focused.

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    2. You’re sleep deprived

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      Who in college isn’t pounding the caffeine?

      Students who force themselves through weeks upon weeks of 4-6 hour sleep nights, are significantly deteriorating two aspects of their mental performance critical to studying for exams: motivation and vigilance.

      Studies show that poor sleep negatively impacts motivation. But really, no one needs a study to tell them how much worse your outlook on life is when you’re low on sleep.

      And vigilance, the ability to maintain concentrated attention over prolonged periods of time, is also significantly reduced during a period of either acute (staying up all night studying), or chronic (cutting sleep short for multiple days) sleep deprivation.

      Set yourself an end-of-the-day alarm.

      Yes, studying more consistently for shorter chunks will allow you to spread it over a longer period of time; therefore, preventing the need to deprive yourself of sleep just to get your coursework done. But really, it’s a psychological issue.

      There are a million things we’d rather stay up and do, than go right to bed after a full day of classes, only to have to get up and do the same thing over again. This is a chicken/egg problem: if I don’t get sleep I procrastinate studying, but if I go to bed I’ll just have to get up and study. Again, lose-lose. We need to break the cycle.

      Set yourself an alarm. But not in the morning. Set your alarm for 45 minutes before when you should get to sleep and allow yourself to sleep for a full 8 hours. If you adhere to that you’ll be surprised how many hours of free time seem to materialize.

      Study time + free time + sleep = happy and successful students.

      3. You have a false sense of security

      Photo credit: funnfun.in

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        You may think you’re being a diligent student, sitting there in the lecture, listening intently, copying down page after page of notes from the professor. You might even be following along and raise your hand here and there. But there’s a big difference between feeling like you understand something, and actually being able to reproduce it on a test.

        This is what we call passive learning, and it’s the best way to ensure that you’ll spend a lot of time and effort trying to learn new material, without actually being able to retain any of it.

        Quiz yourself.

        Don’t be fooled by your professor’s overly logical explanations. This dude already knows the material, so it’s easy for him to explain it in a way that others find understandable. The real challenge is whether or not you can do the same.

        If you’re wondering if you actually understand something, quiz yourself. Or better yet, explain it to someone (or yourself, but be warned: people tend to stare).

        As Einstein liked to say, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

        By routinely quizzing yourself, you’ll get a dose of reality of whether you actually know the material or not, instead of what most students do: assume they know it until the night before the test, when they proceed to freak out because they can’t do any of the practice problems.

        4. Not all study time is created equal

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          Fact: seven hours of studying over 7 days is much more effective (more learning per time spent) for understanding new material than 7 hours of studying in one chunk. This is especially true for technical courses with new jargon you have to internalize.

          Chunk your study time.

          The brain uses a ton of energy (20% of our resting metabolic rate), and there’s only so much you can expend per day. To maximize your retention of new material, you want to take advantage of both active learning and recovery.

          Because the brain consolidates new neural pathways during sleep, particularly during REM sleep, the more sleep cycles you intersperse between your study hours, the more likely it is that you will retain the material and be able to whip it out on test day.

          This also allows you to take advantage of spaced repetition. Instead of having to constantly review your material to keep it in the forefront of your memory, you can follow a cycle of ever-increasing time intervals between review sessions (the “forgetting curve”), decreasing the overall amount of time needed to re-learn material you might have forgotten from the beginning of the semester when the final rolls around.

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          5. The planning fallacy

          Humans systematically overestimate what can be accomplished in the short-term, and underestimate what can be accomplished in the long-term.

          Ironically (and sadly), we only have this problem evaluating our own tasks – providing a pretty accurate picture of how long things will take when evaluating someone else’s situation objectively.

          “Dude I’ve got this Calc final covered. Just need a couple days before to go over my notes. But you’re screwed for your Orgo class – better head to the library now or you’re never gonna pass.”

          Use the 50% rule.

          Estimate as conservatively as you can, how much time it’s going to take to study for your exam, assuming you start early and work consistently.

          Done?

          Okay. Now add 50% to that estimate.

          This will give you a more accurate picture of how much time you really need to allocate to starting studying.

          6. You think you have more study time than you do

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            Pull up your Sunday schedule. What do you see?

            Oh looks like I’ve got a big chunk of free time from 4pm to 10pm. Perfect, I’ll just squeeze in 5 or 6 hours of studying and then call it a night.

            Try again. It’s more like 2-3 hours.

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            This is another type of planning mistake: overestimating how much productive time we can extract from any given period.

            Things we tend to forget: we need to eat; we need to sleep; there will be interruptions (yea right like you’re actually going to shut off your phone).

            But another thing we fail to account for: the body goes through 90-120 minute activity cycles (called the Ultradian Rhythm). So even though you may be sitting there, highlighting your textbook for 3 hours straight, you really only have the ability to absorb material for 1.5 to 2 hours before you need a period of rest.

            Cut your estimated hours in half.

            If you think you have 8 hours on Sunday after the game to study, forget it. You actually have 4 or less when you take out time for eating, breaks, and normal daily activities.

            7. You can’t get motivated or focused

            A lot of us tend to sit around and wait…

            Waiting for the wave of motivation to strike us to finally get started on the homework assignment due in 24 hours, or studying for the midterm.

            Here’s the problem: motivation comes and goes, but the demands of school and learning and everyday life don’t. And if you’re relying on your motivation to keep you focused, everything you’re doing is going to be in a perpetual state of lateness and last-minute-ness, because there’s never enough motivation to go around.

            Focus on the process, with the end in mind.

            Why are you in school? Why do you want a degree? Get clear on exactly what your motivations are.

            But thinking about the future is not enough. That vision of the future that drives your emotional intensity needs to be linked to your daily activities. (e.g. “Each day I study for Calculus brings me one step closer to being a doctor and making a difference in people’s lives.”)

            What is the one set of activities each day that will virtually guarantee success in your coursework?

            And what can you do to organize your day, set up incentives, quit things that don’t matter, etc. to virtually guarantee you will do that one set of activities day in and day out, despite motivation?

            Featured photo credit: UBC Learning Commons via flickr.com

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            Last Updated on January 6, 2021

            14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

            14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

            Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

            In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

            For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

            For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

            Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

            Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

            Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

            How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

            Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

            1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

            Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

            For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

            2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

            Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

            Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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            Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

            3. Create a System

            Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

            This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

            You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

            Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

            Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

            4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

            We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

            If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

            Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

            Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

            5. Use a Ratings Scale

            Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

            Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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            It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

            6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

            This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

            You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

            You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

            7. Offer Feedback Forms

            Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

            First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

            Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

            You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

            8. Track Cost Effectiveness

            This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

            Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

            Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

            9. Use Self-Evaluations

            Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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            Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

            10. Monitor Time Management

            This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

            Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

              The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

              While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

              11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

              We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

              Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

              For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

              Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

              Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

              From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

              12. Utilize Peer Feedback

              This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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              Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

              Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

              It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

              13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

              When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

              Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

              Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

              14. Use an External Evaluator

              Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

              They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

              While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

              Final Thoughts

              These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

              The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

              The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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              Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

              Reference

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